Perfect is the Enemy of the Good


Last fall, Interactive sponsored a Bloomberg Government videocast called, “How Federal Agencies Are Improving the Customer Service Experience.” In it, Rick Parrish, a senior analyst for Forrester Research, brought up the notion of how ‘perfect’ is the enemy of ‘the good.’ Wow – did that hit home.

It’s been more than 15 years since I first started working with U.S. Federal Agencies, and I’ve found without fail that new initiatives get started in one of two ways. It’s either through an executive order at the political or bureaucratic level which is pushed down, or it starts at the department level where they have a need, and they push upward looking for an executive sponsor.

In either scenario, it happens time and again where everyone has the best of intentions, but the desire to make the deployment “great” can expend all the effort and goodwill at the front end, leaving very little drive and passion when it’s nearing time to deploy years later. Also impacting the notion of the “perfect” deployment is the technology rate of change and the ongoing struggle to keep the program current.

Rick Parrish describes it in the videocast this way…

“I see this pretty often, both in government and in the private sector, where organizations let the perfect be the enemy of the good. It becomes what you might call a sort of traditional waterfall kind of approach to the whole thing. Let’s spend millions of dollars doing all kinds of studies until we get something we think is fully actionable, whereas along the way they could have benefitted from these immediate insights, these daily interactions. They could be learning and doing so much.”

Realizing there’s a strong culture within government organizations that’s not easily changed, perhaps it’s time to push the boundaries and embrace this idea and start taking advantage of iterative successes.

One approach that we here at Interactive use is Agile, which stresses incremental, iterative work cadences called “sprints.” It’s an alternative to the traditional waterfall sequential process that flows from conception through analysis, design, testing and eventually implementation and maintenance. And it’s been great to see early adoption of Agile within a few leading Federal Agencies.

I can think of and see so many benefits to a more iterative approach for government technology programs and projects:

  • Executive sponsors are more likely to join on as results are realized (albeit much smaller results) in a much shorter time span
  • When there’s a change of leadership and priorities, smaller gains have already been made
  • Funding may be able to be broken out into smaller portions
  • Constituents see more results more often – and see their tax dollars at work
  • Program/Agency staff who pride themselves in the delivery of results and enhancements as their legacy


I’ve had the pleasure to work with life-long civil servants from numerous agencies – and it would be great for all of us to start sharing in those little successes.

Make sure you tune into our webinar July 13, at 2 p.m. ET, to see how easy it is for government agencies to communicate with its constituents and communities. Register Now.

Robin Steis

Robin Steis

I joined the sales team at Interactive Intelligence January 2010, leading Interactive's Federal sales efforts. My 25-plus years’ experience with contact center technologies has spanned the evolution from simple call routing options of a PBX to innovative cloud solutions enhancing citizen and customer experiences. I have had the privilege of previously working with other technologies such as Genesys, Apsect, Pegasystems and Nortel, always with a focus on delivering results and assisting agencies in achieving their potential. I am a proud alumna of Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and naturally an avid college basketball fan.